Martin Kleppmann - Goodbye GPL

In this post I argue that we should move away from the GPL and related licenses (LGPL, AGPL), for reasons that have nothing to do with Stallman, but simply because I think they have failed to achieve their purpose, and they are more trouble than they are worth.

For all these reasons, I think it no longer makes sense to cling on to the GPL and copyleft. Let them go. Instead, I would encourage you to adopt a permissive license for your projects (e.g. MIT, BSD, Apache 2.0), and then focus your energies on the things that will really make a difference to software freedom:counteracting the monopolising effects of cloud software, developing sustainable business models that allow open source software to thrive, and pushing for regulation that prioritises the interests of software users over the interests of vendors.


I quoted basically first and last above, worth reading in its entirety.

For me, “develop sustainable business models” is why I like Prosperity: I think that “forcing” a discussion about supporting software by commercial entities is what it does, while providing permissive licensing to all other users.

Basically, I am cynical enough to think the broadly permissive licenses are not well used by commercial entities.

This part also:

The only real use for copyleft nowadays is by commercial software vendors (MongoDB, Elastic) who want to stop Amazon from providing their software as a service – which is fine, but it’s motivated purely by business concerns, not by software freedom.


I read this through, and disagree on very little. However, judging copyleft by the GPL or even the AGPL in 2020 is like judging open source by fifteen-year-old Linux kernels. FSF and RMS basically walked off the job after failing to get their way with GPLv3. They failed to play even the strong cards they already held in the ASP/SaaS/cloud era.


Right. The issue being that Martin and others have not been exposed to emerging classes of licenses.

Pretty much my presentations over the past 2 years have been “interesting new licenses exist and are being used” and “you should think about what you want / what issues licenses address”.

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I really appreciate you and everyone telling developers that they have new choices, and can come up with their own. Highly restrictive lines about which licenses exist, are good, or provide acceptable build a little cage around the minds of developers. A lot of this is self-serving propaganda in the guise of mentorship. The only way to counteract it is broadly, persistently, as a group.

That said, and arguing against interest for a moment, I have to concede that running across Parity or Round Robin in 2020 is hardly the same experience as coming across GPLv2 for the first time in the 1990s. A mass is certainly building, but I don’t think it’s critical yet.

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Another quote from the article:

My collaborators and I have previously argued for local-first software, which is a response to these problems with cloud software. Local-first software runs on your own computer, and stores its data on your local hard drive, while also retaining the convenience of cloud software, such as real-time collaboration and syncing your data across all of your devices. It is nice for local-first software to also be open source, but this is not necessary: 90% of its benefits apply equally to closed-source local-first software.

Makes sense and fortunately projects like fission are helping us in that direction.


‘NC’, no matter how you enumerate it, always fails to grasp the actual complexities of the contemporary political economy, and probably the future economy and thus always feels anachronistic… whenever I see NC I see Victorian eccentricity, top hats and quills, I think NC is a business aesthetic, not the material preference it appears to be.

Same. For me though, it was because disagreeing with it only requires us to disagree with Kleppmanns subjective opinion on the GPL, which really can’t be disagreed with, since it amounts to his own taste… there IS no arguing taste… I cannot discern any real work being done there capable of constructing a counterposition… but I suspect that may be the point… Kleppmann is financed by a particularly unreliable arbite of political opinion … Boeing. This amounts to an anti-fsf missile… just what you would expect, no?

This article really didn’t jive with me and not because the contents were wrong, but because it was an appeal to the powerlessness of the individual. If I as an individual am powerless, why would I write software in the first place? Why would I do anything? Maybe it is true that the only powers in this world are corporations and mobs, but that idea is terrifying to me. I don’t like the idea that I’m powerless and therefore I disagree with this article.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m willing to take pascal’s wager and believe that the license I choose matters and the code I write matters, even if that might not be true. Because the alternative is in my mind utter nihilism.